Running drills are a great way to ramp up your speed and run with excellent form. If you’ve been following a training plan, but aren’t happy with the progress you’re making, running drills can improve that issue efficiently.
You might be thinking it seems impossible for some simple drills to work the charm on your running.
But drills help you improve your running economy, strengthen the right muscles to make you run more powerfully, and improves your muscle memory for better performance.
In this article, we’ll give you in-depth details on how running drills do that, as well as 8 of our top speed and running form drills that you can start right away.
Why Running Drills?
The list of benefits from running drills is a long one. Once you see how they help your running performance, you’ll be motivated and excited to see these advantages for yourself.
Your running becomes more efficient (in other words, you’re able to produce more oxygen with less effort from your muscles – think of this like your own personal miles per gallon).
Drills strengthen your muscles and joints for more power, so you’re able to recruit the right muscles for the right tasks (for that, you’ll need strong hip flexors, core, quadriceps, and hamstrings).
They improve balance and coordination, also known as neuromuscular effectiveness. Balance is important since it improves the receptors in (primarily) your legs and feet, helping you anticipate sudden changes – and making your runs smoother, faster, and injury-free.
Your running motions become more automatic, which improves your technique, making the movements more efficient.
You’ll have improved muscle memory. Keep in mind, that the memory doesn’t actually occur in your muscles. Rather, the repetitive motion of the muscles becomes imprinted in your brain, which helps you then repeat the movements over and over.
Running drills improve your cardiovascular condition – you’ll produce more oxygen, which increases your fitness level. From there, you’ll be equipped against fatigue, and much more likely to avoid hitting the wall or running out of stamina.
Done in a slightly different way, drills can even be used as a warm-up, keeping your runs that much more simple.
How to Incorporate Running Drills into Your Training Plan
Now that you know the benefits of form and speed drills, you should know the best methods for mixing them into your training plan.
When to Do Running Drills
When to do your running drills is pretty flexible. Here are the options:
- Before you run, after your warmup
- In the middle or end of your run
However, if you save the drills in the latter stages of your run, you may end up being too exhausted and won’t get the best results.
We recommend doing them before you run (after a quick warmup) on the day of a short run.
If you save them for a long run day, you’ll end up taking strength from the run and using it up on the drills. They’re best meant to be done as a cross-training exercise.
Where to Do Running Drills
While they can be done just about anywhere, the best place is on soft ground like dirt paths, grass, or a rubber running track – not concrete.
How Often to Do Running Drills
You should perform running drills once or twice a week to enhance the long-term effects of doing them consistently.
You’ll still want to save some time for other types of crosstraining (like intervals or strength training), to give your body all it needs for optimum performance.
How Long to Do Running Drills
The main idea is to push yourself a little further – or faster – each time.
Since you won’t need to do them every day, you should have ample time to recover in between, giving you the chance to increase each time.
To start with, 20 meters (about 65 feet) is a good measuring point. Be sure to get the moves right first, then go as fast as you can.
4 Running Form Drills
1. High Knees
This classic drill accentuates the running position, which builds up your calves, hamstrings, and glutes with more power for a typical run.
It also helps you turn over more quickly, increasing your speed, so High Knees are really great for both form and speed.
Here’s how to do it:
- Be sure to keep your back straight and shoulders up the whole time. It’s tempting to move forward or backward to help lift the knees with your body. Instead, focus on using the muscles from your legs and core to do the lifting.
- Focus on fast steps, without worrying too much about your speed going forward. The main goal is not covering ground, but focusing on the position and your form.
- Don’t let your arms hang at your sides. Moving them will help you lift your knees and is true to good running form.
2. Butt Kicks
Butt kicks focus mainly on your hamstrings, helping them contract faster.
As a plyometric exercise, this works your cardiovascular system and builds endurance. Since they are explosive movements, this also builds your glutes and stretches out the quads at the same time.
How to do it:
- Hold your upper body and move your arms the same way you do for the High Knees.
- Pump your arms forward at a 90-degree angle and be sure to pump the opposite arm of the leg you’re kicking (e.g. If your right heel is touching your butt, pump your left arm forward).
- Gradually build up speed as you go, making sure you’ve got the right form first.
3. Straight Leg Run
The Straight Leg focuses, not only on your hamstrings, but also on your ankle and toe positions as you land and raise your legs.
They can help you get the right mid-foot strike and improve your overall coordination.
How to do it:
- Don’t bend your knees at all (hence, the name ‘straight’).
- Point your toes upward (dorsiflexion) so that the feet can land mid-foot.
Although a bit more complicated to get the hang of, Carioca drills drastically improve your range of motion in the hips and between the arms and legs.
How to do it:
- As you cross your right foot in front of the left foot, shift the weight to the ball of your right foot.
- Once you move back to the starting position, cross the right foot behind the left, shifting the weight to the ball of the right foot.
4 Speed Training Drills
A-Skips build up lower leg strength while encouraging more efficient foot strikes.
How to do it:
- Get used to the drill by walking at first, then move up to the skip once you’ve figured it out.
- As you lift your knee, make sure it reaches all the way to your waist, while the back leg stays perfectly straight.
- Strike the ground with your mid-foot or forefoot.
B-Skips improve the range of motion in your hip and ankle movements, help your feet grip the surface properly while running, and improve your coordination.
How to do it:
See the video above for both A-Skip and B-Skip demonstrations.
- As you raise one leg, skip with the ball of your other foot.
- When the raised leg lands, grab the ground explosively so the ball of your foot hits below your center of mass and you stand on both feet. then quickly switch to the other leg.
3. Single Leg Step Up
The Step Up is often used for sprinters since it improves your running mechanics of lower body explosiveness and mimics the same motion you use when sprinting.
How to do it:
- Use a box that allows your leg to bend at about 90 degrees.
- Be sure to keep your back foot behind the box, not beside the box, while your front foot is on top of the box.
- When you jump up, only use the front foot on top of the box. Be sure to drive the foot into the box, until it fully extends.
Related: Benefits of Sprinting
4. Side Shuffle
Also known as the lateral shuffle, the Side Shuffle is an agility drill that builds up your lateral mobility and lateral speed. This is important because it helps you accelerate and decelerate quickly and stabilize yourself when running fast.
How to do it:
- Step with your toes first and then use those toes to immediately propel yourself into the next step.
- These steps should go as fast as possible, so your heel barely touches the ground, if it all.
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